'It is a small price for him to pay' – mom whose ex was jailed for not paying maintenance

A woman whose ex-husband has been jailed for four-and-a-half years for not paying maintenance has encouraged others in similar situations never to give up.

Louise Potgieter (60) on Friday told of her anguished six-year battle to hold Andre Potgieter (54) - the "former" owner of the RJ's Steak House franchise - accountable for not paying maintenance for her and her son, now 21 years old.

The court found that Potgieter made the lives of his ex-wife and son unbearable. Louise said that it came as a surprise to her when Andre was sent to jail.

On the other hand, she said: "With us [her and her son] being on the streets for so long, it is a small price for him to pay".

Louise vividly recalled how her ex-husband had her arrested on four separate occasions for going against restraining orders he took out against her.

"He used to have me arrested on a Friday and I had to spend all weekend in jail," she said.

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Andre Potgieter was sentenced in July by Krugersdorp magistrate Abdul Khan for failing to pay spousal and child maintenance.

An execution order to attach the businessman's assets valued at about R1.5 million to recover the money owed to Louise was also issued by the magistrate. However, her attorney Mohammed Beni said Andre Potgieter is challenging the order.

"But we will fight tooth and nail to help her get what she is entitled to."

The magistrate found that the Potgieters both started the RJ's franchise in 2002. When they decided to divorce in 2009, there was a fierce battle to control the business which led to many court actions and the joint looting of the business assets.

Nonetheless, a court ordered Andre to pay maintenance.

A few months after the divorce, he stopped paying under the pretext that he was no longer the owner of RJ's, but merely an employee, said Khan.

Andre's girlfriend was the new owner.

'Elaborate' scheme

It turns out, said the magistrate, that Andre devised an "elaborate" scheme with his lover that ensured that Louise and her son did not receive "a cent" of maintenance.

"While you [Andre] lived in the lap of luxury, she and your son had to move from place to place, town to town, and house to house to find a place to sleep and find something to eat," said Khan.

The magistrate said he was "shocked" and "dumbfounded" to find out that Louise was threatened with arrest, disappearance and civil suits to withdraw the case.

"The accused [Andre] has devised a way to plead poverty. Thereafter, he used the police and underhand tactics."

Khan did not hold back in his criticism of Andre's conduct. He also highlighted several times in his judgment the rights of women and children.

"You have been convicted of an offence against the most vulnerable members of society, a woman and a child. And this is not any woman, and it is not any child … this is the mother of your two sons, and the child is your own son," said Khan.

He said that Andre had many opportunities to make things right by paying the maintenance, but did not.